Inclusion Interviews - with Sarah Usher, Ladies of Code


Inclusion Interviews, joanna-jewitt

Our Inclusion Interview series by Joanna Jewitt features different speakers from various industries about new D&I initiatives. This campaign is running alongside our own internal educational piece and inclusion strategy. For this series, we've been catching up with our network to see what inclusion initiatives they've been involved with and effectively implemented across their space. 

Could you give us a brief introduction of yourself, your role, and how you’ve got involved with Ladies of Code and D&I strategies?

I have been working as a professional developer for 10 years. In that time, I have worked on web, and mobile applications as well as backend & data processing systems. I now focus on Data Engineering. For most of my career, I have been the only women on the development team. I have also seen many women leave software development because they did not feel welcome. I joined Ladies of Code because it provides an opportunity for me to offer support and assistance for women working in Technology, to encourage them to get into Tech as well as stay in Tech.

Why do you believe it is important for every business to have a focus on D&I?

Diversity, by definition, can bring a wealth of backgrounds and perspectives to a company. But those employees will only be able to share their ideas if they feel truly included – that they are accepted for who they are, and they can be themselves at work. Companies that can tap into the varied experiences of many different people will create the most useful products for their clients. It starts from within, so they need to focus on diversity and inclusion.

How have you seen D&I policies and initiatives change over the last year?

I have seen some companies relax their D&I policies when they are trying to grow rapidly and are not able/willing to wait for candidates to become available. Some are not willing to advertise their roles in more niche communities. However, I have also seen companies expand their hiring pools as they have gone remote due to the pandemic and are able to interview more candidates than just those who are local to the office. Other techniques involve very high rewards for successful referral of D&I candidates and policies with recruiters where for every white male the recruiter finds, they must then refer two candidates who are not white men.

What D&I initiatives have you implemented or been a part of that have been successful?

In my previous job (I changed due to losing my job in the pandemic), I was part of the hiring committee and ran an alternative hiring event where attendees could come by in the evening and get an introduction to the company as well as have relaxed conversations with colleagues in the office, instead of having to apply first to find out more about what it’s like to actually work with us. We wanted to provide an opportunity after work so that people would not have to take time off to come by. We were also available during work hours if anyone wanted to pop in for a chat, for those who could take the time and needed to get home earlier.

With Ladies of Code, we sometimes run events at companies who, as hosts of our events, can highlight their open roles to our members. They often have other employees in attendance at the event, who our members can talk to about the working environment, of the host company. This is very useful for our members as they get some insight into an environment without having to formally apply there first, and it’s useful to the venue sponsor as they can gather some insight into what the folks in our community folks are looking for in an employer.

What’s next for Ladies of Code?

We had quite a successful year in spite of the pandemic. Our popular co-working group, which we’ve continued to run in 2021, has allowed us to meet over 80 people in our community and we’ve seen some folks complete projects that they had been putting off for years. This group is welcome to anyone who wants to work on a project with some company from others who are doing the same. We ran a 4-week new speakers course, where attendees were coached through exercises to brain-storm talk topics, create a biography, abstract, talk structure and presentation and finally will had an opportunity to present their talks if they choose to. It went well so we’ll run this again in 2021. We will also run a second season of our ‘Get Into’ series where we demystify different roles in Technology. You can catch the first season here: